Goat-inspired prosthetic leg will give rock climbers better footing

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Sean Buckley
September 17th, 2014

For all the neural-controlled, bluetooth-enabled and sport-specific prosthetics humanity has designed over the years, one thing remains constant: most of of them are lousy for climbing rock faces. Design student Kai Lin learned this while researching artificial limbs in a prosthetic-design class at Pratt Institute -- traditional leg prosthetics don't have enough grip or articulation to facilitate effective climbing. Lin's solution to the problem is almost elegant in its simplicity. He designed a prosthetic leg inspired by one of nature's best rock climbers: the mountain goat.

Why a goat? Well, aside from the amazing YouTube videos one can find of the creatures scaling near vertical rock faces, Lin found that the cupped surface of the goat's hooves create natural suction on hard surfaces. Better still, the hard outer shell gives the animals stable footing on steep rocks. Inspired by the hoof, Lin created three prototype stilts to help him refine the footing for his prosthetic design, eventually settling on a mid-sized foot with a hoof-like sole.

Does it work? Unfortunately, we don't know just yet. Lin is still in the design phase, and hasn't reached the point where he's comfortable producing a working prototype. When he does finish the design, he plans on calling the prosthetic Klippa -- Swedish for "cliff." You can check out the student's design work at the Pratt Institute link at the source link below.

[Image credit: Kai Lin, Pratt Institute]

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